Wandavision

I’ve been fairly ambivalent towards Wandavision. The main draw for me was the interesting premise of the sitcom conceit. It felt meta in a way that wouldn’t be quite so tiresome as some of the other meta works I’ve seen in the past. I was curious as to what the premise and setting would lead towards.

Also, the MCU has a habit of taking itself too seriously, and I was hoping for a break from that.

That said, I came in with reservations, the primary ones being Elizabeth Olsen’s casting and that I’m just not a fan of her romance with Vision.

Spoilers ahead.

Wandavision doesn’t attempt to correct the mistakes of its predecessors. Even though there is an attempt at diversity, most of the story still revolves around a white nuclear family with super powers. It becomes particularly troubling as it’s gradually revealed that Wanda’s spell has essentially mind controlled individuals in the town to become characters in her personal sitcom. This is uncomfortable on its own, but feels especially so when the primary nods to diversity are towards the side characters…whose real selves are being controlled by a white woman….who is a whitewashed version of her comic origins.

Though Monica Rambeau was introduced in the story, a character who came back after the Snap only to discover that her mother is dead and the world is entirely different, she consistently takes a back seat when her own grief could have played against or in concert with Wanda’s.

Monica is very empathetic to Wanda’s loss because of Monica’s own loss, but it’s always done in a way that is very safe. Wanda is allowed to be complicated in her grief, but Monica is only allowed to be supportive. The end of the season finale made it clear we’ll be seeing Monica again. I hope she’ll have more of the stage in the next story.

Another disappointing part of the season for me was that they introduced Agatha, previously a nosy neighbor, as an antagonistic witch. This choice allowed Wanda’s role as the Scarlet Witch to be revealed, but I’m sure there could have been a way to accomplish that without going for a witchy antagonist to defeat.

But defeated Agatha is, and Wanda needs to make a choice regarding what to do with her. Agatha’s ultimate fate is to be “locked up” as the neighbor role she played in Wanda’s spell.

There are other antagonists of course — Hayward, who took over SWORD after Monica’s mother. However, even though Monica was the primary voice against Hayward, even though he took a legacy that was supposed to have been hers, it is not even Monica who gets to resolve that.

Darcy gets that moment of resolve by ramming into him with her truck while making a smug remark about prison.

I did join an abolition book club last summer, so I have been thinking about the role of prisons not just in real life but also how it’s portrayed in the media. Though I would not expect anything less from the MCU, prison is set forward as an acceptable part of society. Wanda takes it a step further by essentially forcing Agatha to live a life, to be a self, that is not her own in Westview, which had been cast as its own kind of prison through the disturbing motif of, we can’t leave.

It wasn’t okay for Wanda to do what she did, even if it was unintentional, and the story really seems to shy away from just owning that Wanda did That. Seemed strange to me because a couple scenes back Wanda proclaimed her difference from Agatha because she didn’t know what she was doing, then knowingly and deliberately imprisons Agatha in her sitcom character. Again, it feels that the writers don’t really want to own that Wanda is someone who does that now. Wanda gets to be judge and enforcer of what Agatha has done, and it seems very telling that the narrative makes Wanda exempt. After the spell is well and truly lifted, she walks amongst the people she’s hurt but she does not face them.

I don’t want to take away from character complexities. It’s great to have complicated characters who make choices–good, wrong, in between–and to have them experience the results of those choices in every conceivable messy way.

But Wanda doesn’t actually have to live with what she’s done. She walks away from Westview the same way she entered it: alone & grieving — except this time, she knows she’s the Scarlet Witch. Monica tells her that the townsfolk will never know what she gave up for them — and it rings so hollow. We know this is a spell that Wanda cast on accident out of her grief. We know that the townsfolk were robbed of their sense of self to serve in Wanda’s story. We know that, due to the battle between the two witches, their town is destroyed.

The townsfolk were not even given a choice of what they were to give up, but Wanda already lost Vision. Vision was not real, her children were not real — and I am not denying that they were not real to Wanda, but to contextualize Wanda giving up a fantasy life in favor of the very real lives of the townsfolk, and that they would never realize that amount of sacrifice — feels like it’s putting Wanda on a moral high ground she did not actually earn. It feels as if the hate and anger or whatever emotion the townsfolk may be feeling towards Wanda is not justified because if they knew what she sacrificed they would not feel that way. We do not actually hear from the townsfolk after Wanda releases them.

Monica is not even allowed to have complicated feelings about what happened to her — especially when she’s first introduced to the viewers as Wanda’s Geraldine. Her hair is not depicted in her natural hairstyle when viewers are first introduced to Monica as Monica and when she’s pulled into Wanda’s spell. Surely Monica would have feelings about that? The only instance is when Monica pushes back against Wanda and says the only lies she’s spoken are the lies Wanda made her speak, and that’s not enough for me.

After being assured that Monica doesn’t hate her (???), Wanda leaves the town people to clean up the mess she and Agatha created. In isolation, she reads from Agatha’s book. While the townsfolks get to put the wreckage of their lives back together, Wanda gets to learn more about her powers. And honestly–if the writers would own that, I don’t think I would have a problem. But the natural fallout of her relationships is portrayed as a non issue. Even when Agatha breaks the spell in their minds, the townsfolk speak with one voice. They are not individuals as they plead with Wanda.

This framework frustrated me so much because in addition to abolition I am also reading a lot about restorative justice, and it just does not sit right when no one in the story — no one — even suggests that maybe Wanda should stick around and help clean up her mess. None of the townsfolk characters are allowed to say, help us, or on the other hand, are allowed to say, get the fuck out you’ve caused enough damage.

That’s a problem for me, but it’s also been a problem that has plagued much of the MCU, despite Stark’s taskforce or whatever that was introduced in one of the films, and then paved the way towards the Spider-Man villain (don’t get me started).

Honestly, the writers should have focused on Wanda, Monica, and Agatha as agents of grief. Their names rhyme that is practically reason enough. Agatha ultimately rings hollow as a character because all she wants is to take power from the undeserving. Okay. Can we get a little something more interesting? If each of these characters had been given major themes of grief to navigate and resolve with, against, and outside each other, driving and opposing needs, then the choices they made would have been more significant, along with a more significant fallout. This would have made the overall narrative stronger, more resounding, and would have given me less of a headache.

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